Saint Katherine Orthodox Mission
Antiochian Diocese of Eagle River and the North-West
Category: Trumpet, Children's Word, Articles
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Message from the Pastor - 10/15/2018

Welcome! If you are new to Orthodox Christianity, the best thing I can tell you is what St. Philip said, “Come and see!” (John 1:46).

Orthodox Christianity is not simply a moral system or a set of beliefs, but an encounter with the Living God in our daily struggles. It is not easy, though it has endured from the days of the Apostles until now. It requires discipline and humility, as we fall and get up again to continue our way to Jesus Christ. Yes, there are sorrows, but the joys are much greater. God's love is always triumphant over sin and death.

When you come for the Divine Liturgy on Sunday, you will be surrounded by folks just like you who are seeking God, and have converted into the Orthodox Church from many different backgrounds: Roman Catholicism, Protestantism (in many of its varieties), and Buddhism. We are an eclectic group, ranging from college faculty to engineers or farmers. We fast and we feast. We pray and we fellowship. Don't worry, you will fit right in.

Our numbers are growing steadily, and we are getting ready for many exciting changes ahead.

While I work a secular job during the week to support my family, I am available on weekends to assist you in your search. There is no arm twisting: I am here to answer questions only. You need to consult that still, small voice within your depths to tell you whether this is right for you.

May God bless you and, again, welcome!

Article by Patricia Bartlett - June 16 - 06/16/2015

Many years ago, I attended a spiritual retreat for a weekend. I had a great time away from the house enjoying a break from five small children. I had two days filled with fellowship, oodles of time for praying and sharing, and uninterrupted opportunities for worship and learning. I was reaching an emotional mountain-peak, escaping the depths of daily drudgery. I could see new potentials, realize new horizons, being energized, renewed and ready for anything the devil could dish out. Then I returned home.

Entering the house was like falling off an emotional cliff. Filling the sink and covering the tables and counter tops were weekend's worth of dirty dishes, (a pox be upon those who supplied us with multiple dish sets!) The entrance to the laundry room was blocked by a mountain of dirty clothes discarded by children who had 'helped' daddy garden, build stuff and dig in the mud. I was fairly certain there had been carpet in the living room when I had left, but I couldn't see it under all the toys. I had hoped to come home to dinner prepared and ready to eat, but instead I was asked to cook something quickly because he had to leave for a meeting in an hour and oh, by the way, did I have a good time? The fall ended, I hit the ground and exploded into pieces. My husband barely escaped with his life, my children hid in their rooms with only a few scorch marks.

It's amazing how fickle emotions can be. One minute, happiness reigns and the next second, a misplaced word, a funny look, or a sink full of dirty dishes can start a self-pity party. Emotions can be manipulated by others for good; Root for your team! or 'watch these graphic videos and donate to our worthy cause', or for ill; 'Let's riot because our team didn't win!', 'Let's destroy these people because they are not us!'.

Emotions can both distort and enhance our reality. They can not be trusted to guide us and they should never, ever be equated with spirituality. That's one reason why emotions have no place in the church.

Over the years, I've been to many mini-concerts disguised as worship services. In these churches, the leaders strive to find new and improved ways to stir up the emotions of the congregants, to lift them higher and higher into heaven or to 'call down' the Holy Spirit onto those present. Many times I have heard people judge the quality of the service by saying things like, 'I could really feel the presence of the Holy Spirit today,' or 'the pastor's sermon really stirred me up,' or even, 'It felt like our prayers were just hitting the ceiling, that they weren't reaching God.'

Is the presence of God really dependent upon my emotional response to the worship? The Orthodox don't think so. There is no attempt to stir up emotions in an Orthodox service because the Orthodox believe God is present at every service in the church whether we 'feel' Him or not. Eternity is all around us and the time-line within which we are confined is just a rip in the fabric of eternity isolating us from it. Each Orthodox service opens a way to enter the 'foyer' of heaven, reuniting time with eternity and allowing worshippers to join in with the eternal worship of God by the angels. Every Orthodox service is a glimpse into heaven and eternity.

God is present, because eternity is always present. Now is the time of salvation. I just need to stand still, join the liturgy, step out of time and be renewed, no emotions required.

How I feel should have nothing to do with it. In fact, emotions can hinder my worship. Focusing on how I feel during a service, makes me self-centred instead of God-centred. Worrying about my earthly cares during service, can blind me to the presence of God.

My emotions are part of me, but they should not control me. Attending services in the peaceful, loving presence of God will help me control them, allowing me to summit a spiritual mountain instead of plummeting from an emotional cliff.

Archpriest George Aquaro Biography

Fr. George is originally from Los Angeles County, California. His father was a fireman (back before we had firefighters), and his family enjoyed the outdoors with frequent camping trips in the Sierra-Nevada Mountains and surrounding deserts.

He later attended the University of Southern California, receiving two Bachelors of Arts in Print Journalism and International Relations, with a minor in Public Administration. He also spent a semester on scholarship at the University of London, study UK and international journalism along with Soviet defense policy.

After graduation, he moved to Japan and taught English, but returned to the US and eventually enlisted in the United States Navy, where he worked as a TV journalist, primary on the island of Crete at a joint US-Greek facility. This is where he was exposed to Orthodox Christianity for the first time.

Again returning to the US, he had many questions regarding the history of Christianity, and began attending Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, CA. His first class was in Biblical Greek, which was taught by an Orthodox Christian priest. Through that relationship, Fr. George learned about the orthodox faith and was received into the Church.

After marrying the lovely and talented Khouriyeh Barbara (Khouriyeh is the Arabic Christian title afforded to the wife of a priest), Fr. George was instructed by his bishop to attend saint Vladimir Orthodox Theological Seminary in Yonkers, New York. There he received his Master of Divinity in 2001, writing a thesis which was later published as the book, "Death by Envy: The
Evil Eye and Envy in the Christian Tradition."

After seminary, he was ordained to the Holy Diaconate and assigned to St. Nicholas Antiochian Orthodox Christian Cathedral in downtown Los Angeles, where he served until his ordination to the Holy Priesthood in 2003. He was then assigned to St. Timothy parish in Lompoc, CA, until 2006, when he was reassigned to St. Matthew parish in Torrance, CA. In 2017, Fr. George requested assignment to St. Katherine mission, and was granted a transfer with his family.

In addition to the normal seminary curriculum, Fr. George has also attended numerous seminars on a variety of topics, including Critical Incident Stress Management, Exorcism, and continuing education seminars hosted by the Antiochian Archdiocese of North America. He also is a student of Canon Law.

Fr. George has traveled internationally, speaking on the topic of Christianity and addiction. He has lectured in Romania, Finland, Russia, and the Bahamas. In addition, he has visited Singapore, Japan, Canada, Great Britain, Spain, Portugal, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, Belgium, Holland, Austria, and Greece.

With his wife, Fr. George has three children. He enjoys camping, hiking, fitness, welding, carpentry, construction projects, tinkering, and martial arts (Filipino Martial Arts and Historical European Martial Arts).